Obama Campaign: ‘Welcome to the General Election’

BY Terence Burlij and Katelyn Polantz  April 26, 2012 at 8:53 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama exits Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base on Wednesday. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

This entry was updated at 1:08 p.m. ET

President Obama plans to kick off his general election campaign next weekend with a pair of rallies in two key battleground states — Ohio and Virginia — and will be joined by his wife, Michelle. Both events will be held at universities — Ohio State in Columbus and Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, providing the president a chance to continue his pursuit of younger voters, a group that overwhelmingly backed him four years ago.

“Welcome to the general election,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said at the start of a conference call with reporters Wednesday evening to announce the details of the rallies. “The Republicans have settled on their candidate — or should I say, settled for their candidate,” he added, referring to Mitt Romney, whose sweep of five contests earlier this week earned him the title of “presumptive nominee.”

Messina described the president’s campaign effort as “a ramp-up, not a zero-to-60 moment.”

“Obviously the president has a busy day job, and we’ll continue to layer in campaign events where we think it’s appropriate,” Messina said. “This is obviously the start of that process.”

Senior strategist David Axelrod, meanwhile, previewed some of the attacks the Obama campaign is likely to direct at Romney over the next six months.

Axelrod targeted Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts, noting the state “went from 37th to 47th in job creation” under the Republican’s watch. He also criticized Romney’s time as a venture capitalist at Bain Capital, contending “he didn’t care about job creation but about wealth creation for himself and his partners.”

The campaign also signaled that it intends to raise doubts about Romney’s core beliefs.

“We’re not the candidate who reinvents himself from week to week,” Axelrod said. “If you want that, you have to go somewhere else.”

Referring to the president, Axelrod said, “This is a candidate who has a mission, and he’s going to see it through, and that is to rebuild an economy in which the middle class is thriving, in which people can get ahead, in which everybody from Main Street to Wall Street plays by the same rules and gets a fair shake.”

The Romney campaign pushed back on the call, releasing statements from spokeswoman Andrea Saul and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee.

“Americans shouldn’t be surprised that President Obama’s campaign will attack Mitt Romney for his experience in creating jobs,” Saul said. “Unfortunately, voters will have to expect that the Obama campaign will be running a campaign based on personal attacks to divert, distract and distort. Like Mitt Romney said last night, ‘It’s still the economy, and we’re not stupid.’”

For his part, McDonnell said: “In less than two weeks, President Obama will bring his failed policies and broken promises to Virginia. His policies have taken our country in the wrong direction, and Virginia and the rest of the nation can’t afford four more years of the same.”

Welcome to the general election, indeed.

POSTAL OVERHAUL

NewsHour coordinating producer Linda Scott reports from Capitol Hill:

The Senate passed on overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday evening in an effort to help the cash-strapped agency maintain its operation. The bi-partisan measure passed by a vote of 62-37 and gives the U.S.P.S. nearly $11 billion with which to offer buyouts and early retirement incentives to hundreds of thousands of workers in order to pay off its debt.

The House will consider the bill next, preventing Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe from implementing much of his cost saving plan. Donahoe has said he must cut $22 billion in operating costs by 2016 in order to save the agency. The Senate bill makes it more difficult for the postmaster to close post offices and mail processing centers by requiring the U.S.P.S. first to fulfill an extensive list of requirements. The legislation would bar Donahoe from shutting rural post offices for a year. To save money, the postmaster general also wanted to suspend overnight and eliminate Saturday delivery services.

TRAVEL TALK

The Republican National Committee filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday against the Obama administration for misusing government funds to benefit the president’s re-election efforts.

“Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as ‘official events,’ thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his reelection efforts,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a letter to GAO comptroller general Gene Dodaro.

Priebus cited Mr. Obama’s travel this week to speak to college students about preventing a doubling of student loan interest rates as such an example, noting the events had been reported as equivalent to campaign rallies.

In Wednesday’s conference call, the Obama team called the issue a “distraction” and contended that the president’s travel adheres to “all rules and regulations.”

Axelrod also dismissed the Republican Party’s complaint, saying the campaign was “not going to get hot and bothered by RNC stunts.”

GINGRICH: HE GONE!

As Terence wrote Wednesday, Newt Gingrich will officially suspend his campaign next week.

During a stop Wednesday in North Carolina, the former House speaker said plans for an exit were being put into place: “We’re gonna stay very, very active. We’re working out the details of our transition and will have information for the press over the next couple of days. I am committed to this party. I am committed to defeating Obama. We’re will try to find ways to be helpful. I do think it’s pretty clear that Gov. Romney is ultimately going to be the nominee and we’ re gonna do everything we can make sure that he is in fact effective.”

ARIZONA’S DAY IN COURT

Few Supreme Court justices showed their leanings on Wednesday as they heard arguments for and against Arizona’s controversial illegal immigrant regulation law, S.B. 1070.

However, Chief Justice John Roberts made a telling remark, noted National Law Journal correspondent Marcia Coyle.

“”It seems to me the federal government just doesn’t want to know who is here illegally and who is not,” he said during the arguments.

Coyle, a regular NewsHour contributor on Supreme Court coverage, spoke with Gwen Ifill Wednesday night.

Watch their discussion here or below:

The court is reviewing four provisions of the Arizona law, two of which criminalize immigrants who don’t have proper documents and who attempt to work. The justices must decide whether the law reaches further than or diverges from federal immigration policy.

Coyle said the court questioned extensively a portion of the law that allows police to detain and arrest — with probable cause — anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally. Some justices seemed concerned with how long a person may be detained.

The issues before the court don’t address possible racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics, Coyle said.

The Arizona arguments seem to have folded into Romney’s politics lately. Talking Points Memo noted this week that Romney appears to have split with one of the law’s more vocal supporters, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks Thursday in New York, his fifth in a series of speeches framing the administration’s actions since taking office. The focus of his remarks: foreign policy and national security. According to prepared remarks released by the campaign, Biden will say: “If you are looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”

  • Micah Cohen of the New York Times poses the question: “What Do Springtime Polls Tell Us About the General Election?” The answer: Winning in April does not automatically lead to victory in November.

  • Felicia Sonmez writes up Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s foreign policy address at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday. Sonmez notes the rising GOP star and potential vice presidential pick was less critical of the administration than he has been on the campaign trail recently.

  • Congress.org rounds up the list of Republican senators who haven’t yet endorsed Romney.

  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., tells Roll Call’s David Drucker that an official endorsement of Romney is not in the offing, saying such a move would be “silly” at this point. “He knows he’s got my support,” DeMint said.

  • Former President Jimmy Carter told MSNBC Wednesday he would be “comfortable” with Romney, citing the presumptive nominee’s past history as a “moderate.” Carter added that he thought Mr. Obama would win re-election because Romney had “gone too far in the conservative positions to suit the average American” during the primary campaign.

  • The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner collects some of Gingrich’s most memorable statements from the campaign trail.

  • Kenneth T. Walsh of U.S. News weighs what sway Texas Rep. Ron Paul still may hold come the convention.

  • Inspired by a passage from Romney’s speech Tuesday night, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein tries to determine whether the country since President Obama took office.

  • The Washington Post’s Paul Kane provides context for some of the incumbent upsets of Tuesday’s primaries. The Blue Dog Democrats, he writes, are facing extinction.

  • POTUS talks with Rolling Stone magazine about his respect for House Sepaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Romney’s primary campaign statements and pink socks.

  • The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA and the League of Conservation Voters released a television ad Wednesday in Colorado and Nevada attacking Romney for protecting taxpayer subsidies for oil companies.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Rep. Boehner has scheduled a vote for Friday on a GOP proposal to prevent the student loan interest rate from doubling on July 1. The measure’s $6 billion cost would be paid for by cutting funds from the president’s health care law.

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told ABC News on Wednesday that he is not comfortable with the Secret Service’s own internal affairs unit conducting an investigation of the recent scandal involving the president’s recent trip to Colombia. “There’s too much at stake to leave any doubts that an independent investigation wasn’t conducted,” he said.

  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on Wednesday signed a statewide ban of the death penalty.

  • Peter Baker of the New York Times reports that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates will join the strategic consulting firm RiceHadley, which is run by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The firm will now be known as RiceHadleyGates.

  • White House gate-crasher and former “Real Housewives of DC” star Tareq Salahi has declared he will seek the GOP nomination for governor in Virginia. The move comes two days after Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next year, announced he was suing Salahi for failing to provide customers services tied to his his wine tour business. One of the planks in Salahi’s platform? Keeping litigation low.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends meetings at the White House.

  • Mitt Romney has no public campaign events scheduled.

  • Newt Gingrich has a series of events scheduled in North Carolina.

  • Ron Paul holds a town hall in Austin, Texas, at 8 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @kpolantz.